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New book from NYT bestselling author Lewis Howes is now available!


Dr. Ramani Durvasula

How To Create Boundaries With a Narcissist


We all know that the key to a healthy relationship is love, but is that all?

Probably not. It’s also about truly identifying the red flags that may plague an otherwise perfectly normal relationship. One such red flag is narcissism, and narcissism can potentially ruin any relationship. The cause of narcissism can be deeply rooted and the effects of narcissism can be highly damaging,

At a certain point in life, most of us desire to be in a relationship that helps nurture our personal growth. Love is never a blocker but is a gateway to finding meaning, feeling fulfilled, and being able to spread the energy to those around us. At times, the energy around us may be negative, and if a narcissistic partner is one of the reasons for that, then it’s time to open our eyes to reality and do what is required.

It’s not only essential to identify narcissistic traits in yourself or your partner, but it’s equally important to address them in time. And sometimes, moving away from the source or not pursuing a particular relationship turns out to be the only wise option.

“Relationships with narcissists are held in place by the hope of a ‘someday better,’ with little evidence to support it will ever arrive.” – Dr. Ramani Durvasula

This topic truly fascinates me, and if you share the same curiosity, you are in luck, as we have an acclaimed psychologist in the house. Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a clinical psychologist, a psychology professor, a media expert, and an author who is a leading voice on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissism abuse.

In part one of this episode, we spoke about identifying the signs of narcissism in a relationship and understanding how to know if you are one. In this episode, we will dive deeper and learn how to fulfill your desire of finding a healthy relationship, find potential ways to improve your existing relationship and avoid the impulse to date a narcissistic person. 

If you missed part one of this two-part episode, check it out here And before we jump back into the topic, let’s find out more about Dr. Ramani.

Who Is Dr. Ramani Durvasula?

Dr. Ramani is a licensed clinical psychologist, a professor of psychology at the California State University in Los Angeles, and a distinguished speaker. She is also the founder and CEO of LUNA education, training, and consulting. Her attention is on educating survivors, coaches, clinicians, and businesses about the effects of narcissism on health, wellness, and basic functioning.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s work has been the etiology and impact of narcissism on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TedX, Red Table Talk, the TODAY show, and she is a featured expert on the mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Ramani is also the Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine, while the National Institutes of Health have funded her research on personality disorders. 

To connect with the people en mass, Dr. Ramani has authored three books that represent her research. Her book Should I Stay or Should I Go?: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist is considered by many to be a modern-day relationship manual. Her two other books are Don’t You Know Who I am?: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility and You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life

“Entrusting your dreams or aspirations to the wrong person could be a critical mistake, lest they mistreat or neglect them. We are not nearly as careful with our dreams as we should be.” – Dr. Ramani Durvasula

If you, too, are in that pursuit of your dream but have someone in your life who is or has been a narcissist, this post might support you. If you are feeling drained, then I hope that this helps you so that you are not lost and confused in your relationships anymore and you gain some clarity and peace of mind.

“As soon as you put ‘love’ and ‘if’ in the same sentence, you’re screwed.” @doctorramani  

The Biggest Misconception About Narcissists and The Michelangelo Phenomenon

In the current world order, narcissism is quite commonplace and often overlooked. It sometimes sneaks in under the disguise of being a healthy compromise in a relationship, but it almost never is. To identify the signs, it is essential first to understand the misconceptions about narcissists.

“[The biggest misconception about narcissists] is that they love themselves. They don’t! This is a disorder of self-loathing because of all that inadequacy and the ugly insecurity. They hate themselves, and then they project it onto other people. … They keep comparing themselves to everyone; they are constantly anxious and angry. They feel like they are victims and [the whole world] is out together [against them]. Now that’s a difficult way to live, … because they feel like they are always getting the short end of the stick.” – Dr. Ramani Durvasula

We may come across many narcissists in our lives, but sometimes narcissism starts right from home. While some other times, a relationship might be completely devoid of signs of narcissism, and Dr. Ramani explains what such a relationship would look like.

“There’s something called the Michelangelo phenomenon. It’s where one person in the relationship sees the absolute potential in the other in such a way that they [do everything that they can] to get the other person closer to their dream. … [If you have] that collated growth, then, in essence, you are like Michelangelo, and you are [sculpting each other] and realizing the statue from a raw piece of marble every day. No narcissistic relationship is like that.” – Dr. Ramani Durvasula

Dr. Ramani beautifully co-relates a narcissism-free relationship to the Michelangelo phenomenon. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone who is not capable of this sort of phenomenon is a narcissist by any stretch. Most relationships are plagued by insecure partners at one point or another, but insecurity alone doesn’t mean narcissism. Insecurity paired with entitlement and lack of empathy is the problem.

Loving Yourself And Creating Boundaries With a Narcissist

Dr. Ramani insists that narcissists are pitiful people and that pity can sometimes drive their partners to feel they aren’t doing enough. Unfortunately, though, it’s their partner’s own lack of valuing themselves that makes them vulnerable to a narcissist. So would loving oneself fully be the greatest defense against attracting narcissism?

“Fully love yourself to feel deeply authentic. … Lift the conditions of worth from your life; you are loveable and cherishable simply because you are. … Conditions for worth can be anything that people say to themselves, like ‘I am not attractive enough or smart enough or accomplished enough.’ … So it’s about dropping all that and saying that you are lovable because you are — everyone is. It’s not because someone is more beautiful or rich or famous.” – Dr. Ramani Durvasula

Dr. Ramani insists that identifying narcissistic behavior in a partner is not easy, as it’s often justified in one way or another. Most people tend to feel that if they were better at something, they would be appreciated and noticed by their narcissist partner. But that is far from the actual truth.

“Most people don’t understand narcissism. Many people feel that things will change — they enable it and justify it. People should really learn to say, ‘No’ [to narcissism and understand] that it’s not acceptable — the tantrum and entitled behavior is just not okay. The key to saving yourself from a narcissistic person is to detect it early and to set boundaries.” – Dr. Ramani Durvasula

While it’s essential to be able to identify narcissistic qualities in a person, it is also good to know when a person recognizes qualities that non-narcissistic people possess. Dr. Ramani mentions that qualities like empathy, kindness, respect, flexibility, self-awareness, crisis management skills, and emotional balance are all indications of non-narcissistic behavior. And most importantly, always know your worth and never question your value because the greatest defense against narcissism is to love yourself fully.

Why You Should Listen To This Dr. Ramani Durvasula Episode Right Now …

Folks, even in her books, Dr. Ramani brings forward the idea that the way to set yourself up for success is to not commit to being in a relationship with a narcissist in the first place. She insists on taking it slow, learning about the person, and never justifying bad behavior. I recommend that you watch the full episode to catch up on the insights that I didn’t have time to write about here in this post.

Curious what Dr. Ramani’s definition of greatness is?

“My definition of greatness is humility, self-compassion, and empathy.” – Dr. Ramani Durvasula

Dr. Ramani often does workshops and plans to introduce a healing and recovering program for people who have been through narcissistic relationships. To know more about her work and upcoming projects, check out her website and her YouTube channel. You can also follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

If you found this episode to be valuable, then it would be great for you to share it with someone who is or has been around a narcissistic person. I would be very grateful if you could tag @doctorramani and me, @lewishowes, on Instagram with a screenshot of your greatest takeaways from this episode.

I hope that you enjoyed today’s episode. If you love the work we are doing at The School of Greatness, then please take a few minutes and leave a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. While you are at it, do leave feedback and let me know what part of the episode you resonated with the most!

Until next time.

To Greatness,

Lewis Howes - Signature

“It can’t just be you, the only one seeing the masterpiece, they have to see the masterpiece in you.” @doctorramani  

Some Questions I Ask:

  • What are the signs that you have narcissistic parents?
  • How many people in the world are narcissists?
  • When do you know that someone is not a narcissist?
  • How do you know when someone is agreeable?

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The biggest misconceptions about narcissists.
  • The essential components of every healthy relationship.
  • The red flags to watch out for in your own relationships.
  • The difference between narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic personality traits.
  • The key to loving yourself in a more fulfilling way.
  • How to create boundaries with a narcissist.
  • Plus much more…

Show Notes:

Connect with
Dr. Ramani Durvasula

Transcript of this Episode

Music Credits:


Kaibu by Killercats

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